Disney CEO Iger promises 2026 exit, says ABC not for sale

Reuters | November 30, 2023

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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Walt Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said on Wednesday he would “definitely” step down when his current contract ends in 2026 and that the ABC broadcast network was not for sale.

In a wide-ranging interview at the New York Times Dealbook Conference, Iger also said he was “bullish” on the prospects for Shanghai Disneyland and he expected the company would expand the theme park “relatively soon.”

Iger, 72, returned to Disney as CEO in November 2022, less than a year after he retired, to revamp the media company after the board ousted his hand-picked successor, Bob Chapek. Iger had planned to stay for two years but agreed to extend his stay through 2026.

Disney’s board is undertaking a “robust” search for a successor, Iger said, adding that he was “definitely going to step down” at the end of his current contract.

After Iger spoke, Disney’s board announced it had appointed

Morgan Stanley CEO James P. Gorman and Jeremy Darroch, former group chief executive of Sky, as new directors starting early next year.

Gorman will serve on the succession planning committee, the board said in a statement, and Darroch on the audit committee. Current director Francis deSouza will not stand for re-election at Disney’s next annual meeting, the statement said.

Since his return, Iger has restructured the company and streamlined operations to make the business more cost effective. It is on track to exceed the $5 billion in cost savings it promised investors in February.

Disney’s ABC unit is not up for sale, Iger said, as the company deals with a decline in linear television with viewers’ shift toward streaming. Iger had said earlier this year that networks such as ABC may not be “core” to Disney going forward.

In the movie business, Iger said the company had made too many sequels and had made a “mistake” by asking Marvel Studios to provide so many series for the Disney+ streaming service.

“Quantity, in our case, limited quality and Marvel suffered greatly from it,” Iger said.

Iger acknowledged that the issues facing Disney were “much more challenging than I expected,” but added: “I’m not daunted by it. It’s just a lot more work.”

He also addressed Disney’s decision last week to pause advertising on social media platform X after owner Elon Musk endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

Disney felt the association with X following Musk’s move “was not a positive one for us,” Iger said, adding that units such as ABC News and ESPN were permitted to use the platform to communicate even though advertising was halted.

Shares of Disney closed nearly unchanged at $92.44 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Zaheer Kachwala in Bengaluru and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Maju Samuel, Cynthia Osterman, Edward Tobin)


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